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Energy & Environment
WFAE reporter David Boraks explores how the way we live influences climate change and its impact across the Carolinas. You also can read additional national and international climate news.

Public meeting discusses plans for Kings Mountain lithium mine

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David Boraks
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WFAE
Albemarle Corp.'s Alex Thompson pointed out where the company owns property north and south of I-85 in Kings Mountain. The company wants to reopen an old lithium mine on the site.

An overflow crowd packed the Kings Mountain city council chamber Monday night to hear about a Charlotte company's proposal to reopen an old lithium mine.

Albemarle Corp. already operates research and processing facilities at the 800-acre site off Interstate 85, about 35 miles west of Charlotte. The mine operated from the 1940s until the 1980s, but shut down when cheaper lithium sources became available in South America.

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Albemarle Corp.
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Albemarle Corp. is considering draining an old pit mine (water at left) in Kings Mountain to resume mining for lithium. The site is off I-85 about 35 miles west of Charlotte.

Kings Mountain Mayor Scott Neisler said he welcomes the project, which could bring several hundred new jobs.

"We've had mining in this community for over 80 years now. So it's not anything that's really new. And so we have been able to live, you know, side by side mining all this time," Neisler said.

But neighbors of the mine site expressed concern over traffic, noise and environmental impacts.

A few residents said they had been approached recently by Albemarle officials about selling their property near the old mine site.

If the company decides to go forward with the project, the mine would need federal, state and local permits.

"We are nowhere near the point at which we could file for those permits," said Jennifer Diggins, the company's director of government and community affairs. "We need to do a significant amount of data collection. But also an important part of this is we also need to bring the community along with us."

Albemarle Chief Technology Officer Glenn Merfeld said the company wants to take advantage of growing demand for U.S. mined lithium for electric vehicle batteries.

"We're getting a lot of interest, from a national security type standpoint, to have domestic sources of lithium. We have customers who are announcing their battery production facilities in the region. So that that has sparked a lot of increased interest in the potential for the mine.

If the company decides to go forward, the mine could open in as soon as 5 years.

Albemarle plans quarterly meetings for the next 2 years. The company has set up a website where it plans to post details about the project as they emerge.

The land west of Charlotte is one of the richest in the world for lithium deposits. Another company, Piedmont Lithium, is awaiting approval of a state mining permit for a proposed new mine in northern Gaston County.

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